Downtime | author’s note

The last few months have been busy in my life outside writing, which means that while I’ve put a lot of thoughts in my journal I haven’t come up with any brilliant new ideas for books, have been stalled in any marketing efforts, just haven’t felt like working on any of it. It’s been a creative lull.

As I was beating myself up about this yet again this morning, I tried to remember what’s really true.

What’s really true is, writing is my hobby because I ENJOY it, not because it’s something I signed up to do, not because I “should” be doing more at any given moment.

It’s my passion, which means that it lifts me and inspires me—and also that it requires time, energy and attention, which I’m not always able to give it. I have a full-time job which has busier seasons and years, and this has been a particularly busy year. I took two week-long vacations which used time and energy to plan. The rest of my free time has been full of socializing, gardening, celebrations, new adventures, a new pet, and the stress over and care of a sick kitty.

I’ve needed this downtime, even while I’ve missed the experience of dreaming and creating. Life has required a lot of DOING, a lot of decisions, a lot of errands and schedules and purchases and lists. When I’ve sat down in front of a blank page, I’ve used the time to unpack my emotions and experiences, to quietly process, rather than to produce reader-worthy content. When I’ve thought about setting up promotions, marketing, outreach, I’ve hit a wall and find I have no motivation to push my way through it.

And today I’ve decided that it’s really OK.

Moon at dawn from Honolulu

Moon at dawn over the Pacific.

I know I’ll look back on the past six months and feel like my life was rich with love, accomplishments and experiences. There will be times ahead when I can throw myself wholeheartedly into the thrilling ups and downs of writing a new novel, times when I feel inspired to create and share and promote, times when everything else subsides and my hobby takes center stage again. And there will also be periods like this one, when everything else surges up to demand my energy—when my job requires more of me, when I’m focusing more on my family, when I’m choosing to give my attention to traveling or moving or home improvement.

What’s also really true: I’m not sure I’d have it any different.

If writing novels was how I made my living, I’d be much more motivated to keep to rigorous timelines for producing content, editing, marketing, publishing—and much more attached to the outcome of my efforts. While it would be so cool and rewarding to make a living-wage salary from my books, it would also change the nature of it. I know a lot of people have made their calling their career and love it. I just wonder if a little bit of the joy would be swallowed up by stress, if I knew that missing a deadline, or publishing a book that didn’t sell very well, would mean a hit to my income. Instead, I get to have all the fun without any of the worry.

And that’s what it’s supposed to be… fun. Excitement. Fulfillment. Not a series of undone items on a to-do list telling me that I’m not doing enough.

My role as an author has taken a back seat to other priorities lately. But rather than criticizing myself for allowing that to happen, I think I’m ready to feel good about the choice. To feel like it needed to be this way, was maybe even necessary for the conception of a new creative project. To let myself off the hook, get over my expectations, and look forward to whatever being an author will mean for me next month, next year, and in the years to come.

– Emily

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